Turkeys were first placed on The Farm in 1930. One hundred hens and twelve toms, of the best Bronze breeding stock available, were purchased. Thery were divided into five pens and fed and handled in a manner similar to chickens.
Their success in raising turkeys in brooder houses led management to believe this could become a common practice in the future.
On January 10, 1934, one pen of turkey hens was placed under lights and brought into full production by February 1. On January 1, 1935, twenty turkey hens were put under lights and on January 5, the entire flock was put under lights. Within twenty days, the entire flock was in 60 percent or better production.
This was another first for the Foundation. The manager's report states, "It has been demonstrated that if turkey hens are properly grown out and fed, when placed under lights they can be brought into production as early as desired."
At the time this experiment was started in Luling, there had been no published reports of lights being used on turkeys. Later, it was learned that the Kansas Agriculture College had started about the same time and had similar results. The use of lights had great promise for increased profit for turkey growers.
In 1937, when Walter Cardwell was on a trip to Caldwell, Idaho, to observe a Cooperative Freezer Locker Plant there, he heard of an extremely broad-breasted turkey flock that had been bred in Sunnyside, Washington. He traveled there and was very impressed with what he saw. He arranged to purchase six hens and two toms for a trial at the Farm. This was the first broad-breasted breeding stock brought to Texas.
The success of the broad-breasted turkey was nothing short of phenomenal. In 1940, the Farm had 1300 turkey hens as breeders. One Vermont breeder was ordering 20,000 eggs a year. 2,500 poults (day-olds) were shipped to Minnesota by plane, and 10,000 eggs were shipped to a breeder in Illinois. This was all in addition to the voluminous orders that were received from the breeders in Texas.
In 1943, a group of farms was organized to produce turkey eggs. Nineteen producers were maintaining 3,400 purebred hens, and in cooperation with the Farm supplied the local demand for poults, thereby improving the flocks of the turkey growers in the immediate vicinity of the Farm. By 1947, there were twenty-seven producers involved in the turkey program.
In 1952, Mr. Cardwell wrote in his annual report, "It is very encouraging to look over the progress that has been made over the past years with our turkey breeding program. It is believed that the turkeys we are producing now are superior to any that we have produced in the past. We have tried to maintain a constant number of breeding hens from which to produce eggs and poults to sell to turkey growers who appreciate quality. We have 2,500 hens owned by nine producers who have been with us for a number of years."
Again, the drought of the Fifties interfered with the success of the Farm's program. Feed prices shot up while turkey prices were depressed. In keeping with the policies of the Luling Foundation to keep all operations on a money-making basis, the turkey program was discontinued in November, 1957, but not before it had made a significant impact on turkey breeding in the area.